Foreign Experts Visas – Legal Limitations

Life in our global era certainly has, among other effects, a strong effect on the working market and the professional experts market all over the world. While in the past relocation of professional experts was rarely done, the multitude of international companies and the increase in the number of subsidiary companies requires employing foreign experts from all over the world. These recruits are not simple workers, seeking to improve the quality of their life in Western countries. On the contrary, most of these experts consecrate their time and expertise in order to promote and develop the companies they work for.

Israel is considered a good investment opportunity for start-up companies, subsidiary companies, and international companies. However, such investments usually require hiring foreign experts with a very specific professional knowledge and experience, together with senior top-management officials.   The Israeli Ministry of Interior (“MOI”) has established a unique procedure for such experts, enabling these experts to receive a 1-year working visa, which can be extended up to five years and three months in total. This procedure cannot be applied for regular foreign workers. In order to get a visa using this procedure, the foreign expert must meet the following criteria:

1. Salary exceeding twice average salary in the local market.

2. Quality and proficiency of the foreign experts.

3. Management and/or development positions.

4. Contribution for creating additional working positions in the local market.

5. Transfer of knowledge and expertise that do not exist in Israel.

6. Highest education level and professionalism.

Based on these criteria, it is evident that the experts are filing in top-rank positions, such as CEO, Vice Presidents, engineers, etc. Their contribution to the Israeli companies and the Israeli market is evident, and the authorities are interested in providing work permits to these employees.

And yet, when examining the procedures and laws concerning entry to Israel, it is quite evident that there is a conflict between the economical needs and companies’ wish to hire experts for long periods of time on one hand, and the fear of Israeli MOI from permanent relocation of these experts in Israel, on the other hand. Right now, Israeli law enables experts to be employed for a total period of five years and three months only, and requests for additional extensions are very severely examined and rarely approved of, as the general assumption is that there is no real need for such extensions. The attitude in such cases can be seen in Article 3a (c1) of the Entry to Israel Act, 1952:

“….In spite of small article (c) specifications, the Minister of MOI can extend permit for Visiting Visa stay, awarded to a foreign worker, or provide a foreign worker new Entry Visa and Working Permit, in the existence of extraordinary and special contribution of the foreign worker to Israeli economics, local market or society, as established by the MOI minister, and after consulting the Finance Minister and getting the approval of the Industry, Commerce and Employment Minister…”

And so, although there is a procedure for extending Visa beyond the total time limitation, it is a very long, tiresome and complicated one, which usually fails. The Israeli MOI and its officials are severely narrowing their point of view and the general rulings of the law, and they fail to realize the deep needs of foreign and international companies to continue hiring experts and top-management officials from all over the world, as opposed to engaging and teaching local experts. These arguments are hard for high-ranking managers of international companies to understand because their main interest is promoting and extending the company in the most efficient manner, using their outstanding skills. Furthermore, when comparing the limitations existing in the Israeli law to laws in other countries it seems the Israeli laws are quite severe. Other countries enable employment of foreign experts for longer periods of time, and in some countries, like the USA, they can even apply, using specific visas, for permanent residence, after a while. This option is unavailable in the State of Israel, which discourages relocation of non-Jews and foreign citizens within its borders.

Summary and conclusions

The State of Israel does not encourage the relocation of foreign citizens into its borders, based its strict and limited relocation and immigration laws on providing access and citizenship according to the Law of Return (1950). Visitor and work visas are awarded based on that policy, not distinguishing between regular foreign workers, looking to upgrade their quality of life and income, and foreign experts or foreign top-executive officials who sometimes agree to reduce benefits, salary and quality of life in order to help promote the company which invited them.

The Israeli Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the MOI and the State of Israel must look into the advantages and importance of promoting companies, foreign international or local ones. Establishing businesses or subsidiary companies by investors from all over the world requires engaging foreign experts, hired by the company or the investors, for long periods of time – sometimes even for many years. Although Israel may fear this type of permanent residency, sometimes it might prove very beneficial contribution to the country, the market, and economics.


All said in this article does not constitute a legal opinion nor does it serve as replacing proper individual consultation. Responsibility for using or practicing the specifications of this article shall be entirely ruled on the reader.

Dotan Cohen Law Office specializes in immigration and relocation law. The office provides legal counsel in immigration to international and local companies as well as individuals. The office provides legal counsel in immigration law to the following countries: Israel, Canada, United States, and Australia.